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Meet Steve Miller ’08EDD: ‘Nurture Our Students to Engage’

Teaching Assistant Professor of STEM Education Steve Miller

This is part of a series of profiles about faculty who joined the NC State College of Education in 2019-20.

Why did you choose the NC State College of Education?

As a lifelong educator, I’ve held two professional roles in the highest esteem and have aspired to work in each role. I’ve aspired to be a high school principal and a college professor. After devoting 18 hours per day for five years at Clinton High School, the call to move into higher education became a reality.

My role as a teaching assistant professor in STEM Education at the College of Education is a dream come true. The NC State College of Education’s Technology Engineering Program is a national leader, and I am dedicated to being a great teammate in continuing our positive trajectory by bringing expertise in materials processing technology, educational leadership and student organizational leadership to STEM Education.

Why did you choose a career in education?

Teaching and education runs deep in my genes and I knew from an early age that I would follow my mother and father into the classroom. I am a very compassionate and empathetic person by nature and I was quickly able to distinguish myself through my ability to successfully meet the needs of struggling, marginalized, and challenging students. This talent transitioned well to school administration and leadership and provided me with many years of success as an assistant principal and principal in public schools.

Why did you choose your specific field?

I chose my original field because my father was an industrial arts and trades education teacher. He was a phenomenal teacher, innovator, and leader. His talents seemed to be never ending. As I grew up working with him in all facets of trades education, I gained similar skills. My strong drive to build, create, design, and engineer all manner of things was a natural fit for me after I left the United States Army in the early 1990s.

Why did you pursue a Ed.D.?

I love the act of learning and discovery that comes as a result of “reading the circle” of literature in whatever discipline happens to be on the current horizon. My professional aspirations demanded that I earn a master’s degree. I enjoyed, tremendously, my time in the MSA Program at UNCW. I felt compelled a couple years later to pursue a terminal degree in Educational Leadership, Higher Education and Policy Studies. NC State had a program that was top-rated and fit into my plan to move to Raleigh from Wilmington. The acceptance to NC State University was a sign from God that it was time to take the next step in my academic career.

What are your research interests and how did you become interested in that topic? 

As a non-native North Carolinian, I became shocked and concerned at the disparities within marginalized student populations and those students who come from more affluent backgrounds. The systemic lack of academic success for rural and free-and-reduced lunch students is a crisis across the nation. My research interests are centered on effective uses of STEM Education to bridge the gaps in under-performing student sub-groups, and increase overall educational achievement in rural and high poverty schools.

What is your teaching philosophy? 

I believe that we learn best from doing. Our “doing” should take the form of hands-on and project-based learning within very specific constraints and parameters. I work to incorporate as many modalities as possible within my classroom environment because our short term memories become semi-permanent when they are delivered in multi-sensory methods. They become permanent when we repeat and reinforce those taught skills, so I attempt as often as possible to include the multiple modalities and “circle back” to the foundational skills in whatever standards are being taught. We must nurture our students to engage by ensuring that our classrooms are safe spaces for open dialogue and ideas. We must each engage in courageous and active learning. Thought provoking inquiry aids in our mastery of complex subjects.

What do you hope your students learn from you? 

I hope my students learn to “dig in” to the technology engineering discipline and enjoy the journey of learning how we humans design, engineer, and create our built world and environments. I hope they become passionate about learning materials science and processing through their individual design journey.